Lyne Lucien, The Daily Beast
Remember John Hume’s rhino horn auction? You should, because it was all over the news, and even the BBC had lots of “interviews” on the issue.
Now all we hear is sounds of silence.
It would appear, however, that the auction did not go well, little interest.
But let’s get back to basics here. Hume gained international attention because he promised to “undermine” poachers by “flooding” the market with “cheap” rhino horns. That was going to be the solution to the massive poaching of rhinos by substituting a “legal” and cheap market.
Nobody bought into this fantasy, least of all the 2016 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) where international trade was roundly voted down by the delegates.
Persistent, Hume then sought to overturn a ban on internal sales in South Africa, and he succeeded after a series of court cases. So, anticipating perhaps some hope to sell his huge personal stockpile of rhino horns, Hume arranged a “national” auction.
But meanwhile gone was his “campaign” to undercut poachers. This auction was for the highest bidder – and Hume changed his tune to say that the profits would benefit “protection” of HIS rhinos as he was the biggest “custodian” of privately held rhinos (in feedlots) in South Africa. No more mention of rhino conservation….
Hume blames the SA government for dragging their feet to issue him with a permit to sell his horns on auction. And indeed, there were some shenanigans exposed.
But Hume overestimated the national market. After all, there are scores of private rhino owners in South Africa, and all are sitting on their horn stockpiles. Hume wanted an auction of some of HIS horns to the exclusion of all the other private rhino owners.
Mistake, even though Hume said HIS auction was going to be a watershed and that others would soon be able to join in future auctions.
Guess that is all out the window now.
Hume knew that the only way to “market” rhino horns was not going to be a national sale. The “investors” in his failed auction were either “long-term” investors waiting for a change of mind at CITES or those with means of smuggling horns out to the “real” (but illegal) markets in Asia. Hume should have realized this, because, guess what, a poached rhino horn does not last long in South Africa. The horn is whisked out via whatever means and the quickest route to places like Vietnam, Laos, China.
So no wonder the auction was a damp squib.
But really, we do need some sort of comment from the auctioneers, the journalists and the SA government. Let’s have some transparency as to the extent of the failure?
NY AG Eric Schneiderman.